Women’s League Child Development Center (WLCDC) is one of Hartford’s leading early learning centers. Now celebrating its 100th anniversary, the Women’s League is known for innovative, high-quality programming, leadership in the early childhood field, and strong family and community engagement. With WLCDC’s executive director stepping down after a very successful 17-year tenure, the Board of Directors seeks a new executive who can build on the organization’s strengths to position the Center for another 100 years of service to the community.
About Women’s League Child Development Center
The Women’s League Child Development Center. Where children love to learn and learn to love… while having fun.
This motto of the WLCDC captures the core spirit of the Center. It is known for its welcoming, nurturing, family-centered environment, for its innovative programming, and for its deep roots in and engagement with the inner-city neighborhood that surrounds it. Its curriculum aligns with the State’s common core standards while focusing on play as an instrument of learning, and tailoring learning experiences to the individual child’s needs.
WLCDC offers a compliment of programs that meet the needs of children aged 3 months to 10 years and their families:
- Programming for infants and toddlers;
- Preschool programming for 3- and 4-year-olds that provides children with the foundation of skills needed to successfully transition to kindergarten;
- Before- and after-care programming for school-aged children during the school year, and supplementing the Freedom School (see below) hours in the summer;
- Special needs/early intervention services, working with child, family, and partnering agencies to provide wrap-around, uniquely tailored services;
- Summer Day Camp – Freedom School – for children ages 5-10, in partnership with the Children’s Defense Fund;
- Family Engagement – parents and other family members are encouraged to be actively involved in their child’s learning experience; a range of programs offer parents the opportunity to develop their parenting, academic, and leadership skills; In addition, Circle of Families is a parent-led program that meets monthly.
The Center welcomes over 200 children and their families to its programs each day. The majority of the children are black (75%); 13% are Hispanic; 11% are mixed race. Sixty percent of the families are at or below 75% of the state’s median income. Cultural sensitivity is threaded throughout the Women’s League programming and culture.
WLCDC is housed in an expansive 2-story building that it owns in the Clay-Arsenal district in Hartford’s north end. The building is a jewel and a center of activity in this inner-city neighborhood. It was expanded and upgraded six years ago and now takes up nearly a third of a city block.
WLCDC is governed by a 17-member board of directors who are diverse in age and race; they represent the fields of education, financial services, government, social services and women’s rights. The organization is financially strong; it has a budget of $3.9 million and has a solid cache of financial reserves. Its revenue portfolio is dominated by state and federal grants (67%); foundation grants make up 15% of the revenue and 18% comes from program fees.
Strategic Opportunities and Challenges
WLCDC faces a pivotal opportunity as it embarks on this transition. The exiting executive director built a strong foundation of fiscal stability, developed a level of outstanding program quality, and positioned the Women’s League as a leader in Hartford’s early learning community. The next leader faces tremendous opportunity to further enhance what the Center does well, while growing it into one that can flex to the changing conditions of a tumultuous funding, political and social environment.
The next executive will
- Continue to leverage WLCDC’s stellar reputation as a well-run, high-quality, child development center that is family- and community-centered, and take an innovative and whole-systems approach to programming.
- Transition WLCDC from a long-term, well-loved leader who is personally identified with the Center, and who has strong relationships with parents and with key players in the early education field.
- Build WLCDC’s capacity to diversify its funding base and build resiliency in the face of government funding cuts. The organization can draw on its strong reputation and broad and deep community contacts to increase revenue from individual giving and foundation grants.
- Work collaboratively with the board of directors to strengthen the governance model, increase board member engagement, and develop members’ fund-raising skills.
- Take an entrepreneurial approach to meeting the challenges that are emerging in the tumultuous economic, political, social, and education landscapes.
- Step up efforts to advocate the legislature for maintaining the funding that is so critical to supporting the low-income families who are Women’s League clients.
- Strategically expand programming to adapt to changing community conditions and needs.
- Maintain current and create new practices to support staff in the very difficult and demanding work that they do.
Profile of the Ideal Candidate
WLCDC offers candidates the opportunity to lead this well-established and highly regarded early learning center into the next phase of its important work. This position requires a leader who can connect easily and genuinely with people of all races, incomes, and backgrounds, someone who is a relationship builder and is astute at building strategic partnerships. The next WLCDC executive will be able to lead the Center in innovative directions while holding true to its core traditions of child- and family-centered programming.
Bachelor’s degree required; Advanced degree preferred.
Skills, Experience and Attributes
Passionate advocate for the mission: The ideal candidate will have demonstrated passion for WLCDC’s mission in her/his personal and professional history and be able to translate that passion into an articulate and compelling story. S/he will have a firm understanding of the challenges faced by low-income families of color, and some experience working in inner-city environments.
Deep knowledge of early childhood development: The ideal candidate will have knowledge of and experience in early childhood development. S/he will have a solid understanding of the Connecticut Early Leaning and Development Standards, along with curricula and developmentally appropriate practices that inspire high quality learning.
Demonstrated success in raising funds: The ideal candidate will have demonstrated success in fund development. S/he will be experienced in growing revenue from individual and corporate donors, and be skillful in securing government and foundation grant funding.
Respectful, inclusive, and effective leader of staff: The ideal candidate will have experience working in an inclusive work environment and be able to inspire, develop and empower staff and create a productive team-based culture that welcomes inclusion and diversity. S/he will be able to build and maintain a climate of trust and respect where each worker feels appreciated for her or his strengths and contributions.
Keen emotional intelligence: The ideal candidate will have keen listening skills, empathy, and self-awareness, and the ability to connect with people of different styles, professional levels and backgrounds.
A thoughtful visionary and creative entrepreneur: The ideal candidate is skilled in setting strategic direction and holding a vision while being able to identify and respond quickly and creatively to growth opportunities.
Exceptional communication skills: The ideal candidate will be able to articulate with passion the mission of WLCDC, be a visible spokesperson for the organization, and deliver compelling presentations to the public.
Politically astute networker and collaborator: The ideal candidate will demonstrate a proven track record of building and maintaining strong relationships with people of influence in the nonprofit, corporate, education, legislative, and government arenas.
Experienced nonprofit or business manager: The ideal candidate will have significant professional experience in supervision and management of staff, budgeting and strategic financial management, and efficiently aligning and maximizing resources.
Experience working with boards of directors: The ideal candidate will be skilled in working effectively in partnership with boards of directors to carry out the mission of the organization and in setting strategic direction.
Candidate Guidelines and Additional Information
This search is being conducted by Catherine Bradshaw, executive transitions consultant with TSNE MissionWorks.
Women’s League Child Development Center is actively seeking to build a diverse and experienced team and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, handicap, age, religion, sexual orientation, or national or ethnic origin. WLCDC is an equal opportunity employer.